Defending our country-A A +A
Meet the Countryside
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
DIFFERENCES can lead to a conflict. Usually, differences result in disagreement, then argument. If the divergence of opinions is not resolved, it can end in a physical confrontation between two individuals or groups, which can lead to an armed conflict – or even a raging war.
Also, there are those who are unable to argue or reason out; they become deceitful and tyrannical – and destructive.
In the West Philippine Sea, a number of islands is being contested and claimed wholly or partly by other countries: Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam for so many years. The differences somehow have been resolved by the Asean in its “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” with China signing the document in 2002.
The possibility of an armed conflict in the West Philippine Sea, particularly the disputed islands of Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough and the Ayungin shoals which are contested by the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China, has been renewed with the recent assertion of the later by putting these islands under its control (Frank Ching, 2010). The tension between the Philippines and China over the disputed islands has led the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) rushing to upgrade its military capability to establish a modest but credible deterrent capability (Anda, 2012).
In another front, differences over meat threaten the trade between the Philippines and the United States. In particular, the country is facing exclusion from the list of developing countries benefiting from duty-free shipments of selected products to the United States. That means removing tariff preferences on products entering the US, which came about by the country’s policy of limiting the wet market access to frozen or chilled meat products and, thus, “discriminates” against imported meat and, in effect, favors Philippine meat producers (Olchondra, 2012).
The US has threatened retaliatory trade actions on Philippine sugar and rice.
The policy is the Administrative Order 22 (AO 22) issued by the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture (DA), which mandates the refrigeration of meat products in Philippine markets. The policy exempts locally slaughtered meat, commonly referred to as “warm meat,” from the same requirement. The country’s wet market is the last bastion of our local agriculture. It is the place all over the country where millions of our farmers and fisher folks, both commercial and backyard or small scale, sell local produce or harvest: various varieties of all kinds of fresh fish, meat, eggs, milk, vegetables, fruits and grains.
As the country is slow in accessing our own emerging markets, its P383.66-billion animal industry will just collapse – if cheap subsidized imports are allowed in the wet market. In particular, hogs, P175-billion and chicken, P124-billion, the 2nd and 3rd biggest agricultural commodity next to rice; chicken eggs, P38-billion; cattle, P22-billion; goat, P8-billion; carabao, P10-billion; duck, P3-billion; and duck eggs, P3.1-billion; and dairy cattle, P560-million (BAS, 2012) will be severely affected.
The US claims AO 22 “has no basis in science and inherently discriminates against imported products,” the bulk of which are frozen or chilled items (Olchondra, 2012). But, on the contrary, even the SPS Committee of the WTO prescribes that frozen or chilled items should be sold frozen or chilled in a “cold chain” – and only fresh “warm” meat can be safely sold in the wet market. Thawed frozen or chilled meat sold as fresh meat has been scientifically proven not safe.
And, thus, the DA is rightfully not suspending the implementation of Administrative Order No. 22 (Osorio, 2012) as being demanded by the US. In fact, AO22 should be expanded to cover fish, vegetables and fruits.
In defense of the Scarborough and Ayungin shoals, the Philippine government may spend a lot – and lose some good men in the AFP.
But, our government, the DA, could not possibly afford to give up local agriculture and, with it, millions of jobs and livelihoods by allowing frozen or chilled items sold in the wet market as fresh.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 21, 2013.